By Brian Wheeler
Why should the playoffs be any different than the regular season? After persevering through 237 man games lost due to injury in their first 82 games, the Buffalo Sabres will need to show that same resiliency following the loss of defenseman Henrik Tallinder for the duration of the postseason.
Tallinder became the third Sabres blueliner to be bitten by the injury bug after he suffered a broken bone in his left arm with six minutes remaining in Game Three of the team's best-of-seven series against the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night.
"It's been a tough year when it comes to injuries," said Lindy Ruff during his morning press conference. "We've been able to overcome it, have had other players step up, and we're going to have to continue to have other players step up."
According to Ruff, the injury occurred on an innocent looking hit along the boards that turned into, "one of those freak accidents." In truth, the hit was so unnoticeable that media members on Wednesday night were scrambling to find out the cause of Tallinder's absence.
The broken arm ends the Stockholm, Sweden native's best professional season to date. In 82 regular season games, the defenseman set career-highs with 15 assists, 21 points and a plus/minus rating of plus-10 despite playing night in and night out against the opposition's top line.
During the playoffs, Tallinder recorded a pair of goals and eight points in 14 games and had been charged with eating the majority of ice time following injuries to Teppo Numminen - lower body - and Dmitri Kalinin - broken ankle.
"You feel terrible for Henrik," said Ruff. "He's played tremendously and he doesn't get to be part of the ride anymore. There is nothing to get down about besides that. We are more than capable of overcoming his loss. We've been able to do it all year."
The Sabres are now forced to examine four possible scenarios for Tallinder's replacement.
First and foremost, Buffalo hopes that Numminen will be healthy enough to join the team in Game Four. The veteran coupled with Jeff Jillson - who played splendidly during Game Three - would most likely serve as the Sabres third defensive pairing if he was a go.
If Numminen misses his second-consecutive game on Friday night, then three rookies with a total of one NHL playoff game of experience on the blueline remain: Doug Janik, Nathan Paetsch and Jason Pominville
"These players that are going in now have been around here for six weeks," said Ruff concerning the prospects that joined the team after the Rochester Americans' season concluded.
"They've watched all the video, gone through the same game films that we go through and they are ready to play. It's not like we're pulling somebody rusty off the shelf."
Although Pominville has appeared in all 14 of Buffalo's playoff games this season, he has never played a defensive role in a game except for the point on the power play. A responsible forward in his own zone, Pominville has practiced with the defense but doesn't know the position as well as the other two.
Janik - a five-year starter for Rochester - saw just over four minutes of action in his only postseason game last Monday, while Paetsch has played only one game in the NHL during his career.
"We'll make that decision probably tomorrow," Ruff said.